For months the local schools have sat empty, as the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic brought everything, including the education system, to an unceremonious end. But on Tuesday evening, the Prairiland High School parking lot was filled with the smiling faces of students, families and faculty for the annual end of year sports banquet.

Despite the unique circumstances this year, the school still made a point to honor the athletes who were able to compete this past year, and those that weren’t able to finish their seasons.

“Softball was rolling, doing good,” Superintendent Jeff Ballard said. “Baseball was just getting started, trying to figure it out. Tennis, track and golf were all just getting started, and then all of a sudden, bam; it’s over.

“That’s why tonight is so much more important, because these kids missed out on so much in their last two months. The seniors missed out on a lot of closure; closure of their senior year and closure of their sports year.”

The night wouldn’t have been complete without awards and recognitions for the athletes who shone over the year, and several were given out on Tuesday.

The overall girl’s MVP award was given to volleyball, basketball and track athlete Baylor Sessums and softball, track and volleyball athlete Elizabeth Preston.

The overall boy’s MVP award was given to football, basketball and baseball athlete Connor Sessums.

The Fighting Patriot award went to baseball and football standout Cade Gordon, and the Fighting Lady Patriot Award was awarded to volleyball player  Audrey Grey.

On the Patriots football team, the defensive MVP was Gordon, who set the school’s single-season tackle record. and the offensive MVP was awarded to Corbin Adams and Connor Sessums. The overall MVP was Brylee Galloway.

For the volleyball team, the offensive MVP award was shared between TJ Folse and Grey. Folse was second in the district in kills and blocks, and Grey had almost 60 kills on the season, which led the team. The defensive awards went to Trynity Chapman and Reese Parris.

On the powerlifting team, the MVPs were Colton Danna and Emily Sneed.

For the boy’s basketball team, the offensive MVP was Ryan Butler, who averaged roughly nine points and seven rebounds per game. The defensive MVP was shared between Eli Rolen and Galloway. The overall MVP was Connor Sessums, who had one of the highest scoring averages in the area, at roughly 19 points per game. The Heart and Hustle Award went to Brooks Morrison and Blake Ballard.

On the girl’s basketball team, the defensive MVP was given to Madison Clark and Caitlyn Folse. The offensive player of the year was given to Baylor Sessums, who had the team’s highest free throw percentage, second most assists and second highest points per game averag. The Hustle and Heart Award was given to Emily Mouser and Hannah Ray. The overall MVP was Hannah Murdock, who led the team in scoring and rebounding, and was one of only two girls to average a double-double in the Red River Valley.

Though awards were not given for the spring sports that were unable to finish their season, those teams were nevertheless recognized.

Spring sports, which included baseball, softball, track and field and golf, were unable to finish their seasons when the coronavirus pandemic forced the school year and the athletic seasons to an abrupt end.

“It was disappointing,” said Baylor Sessums, who had her final track season cut short. “We’d already broken both the relay records last year, and this year it was our big goal to break the sprint relay record, and we never got a chance to do it.”

“I think it’s so important to show them that we care, and to give them this sort of closure on a difficult year, because this really wasn’t fair to them,” Athletic Director Steve Weddle said after the ceremony. “To see their smiling faces one more time, I know we did the right thing.”

Tommy Culkin is a staff writer for The Paris News. He can be reached at 903-785-6972 or at tommy.culkin@theparisnews.com.

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